Book Title: Godwine Kingmaker
Series: The Last Great Saxon Earls
Author: Mercedes Rochelle
Publication Date: April 4, 2015
Publisher: Sergeant Press
Page Length: 351
Genre: Historical Fiction
Twitter Handle: @authorRochelle @cathiedunn
Instagram Handle: @thecoffeepotbookclub
Hashtags: #AngloSaxon #HistoricalFiction #BlogTour #TheCoffeePotBookClub
Tour Schedule Page: https://thecoffeepotbookclub.blogspot.com/2023/01/blog-tour-last-great-saxon-earls.html
Series Titles and Author Name:
THE LAST GREAT SAXON EARLS
THE SONS OF GODWINE
by Mercedes Rochelle
They showed so much promise. What happened to the Godwines? How did they lose their grip? Who was this Godwine anyway, first Earl of Wessex and known as the Kingmaker? Was he an unscrupulous schemer, using King and Witan to gain power? Or was he the greatest of all Saxon Earls, protector of the English against the hated Normans? The answer depends on who you ask.
He was befriended by the Danes, raised up by Canute the Great, given an Earldom and a wife from the highest Danish ranks. He sired nine children, among them four Earls, a Queen and a future King. Along with his power came a struggle to keep his enemies at bay, and Godwine’s best efforts were brought down by the misdeeds of his eldest son Swegn.
Although he became father-in-law to a reluctant Edward the Confessor, his fortunes dwindled as the Normans gained prominence at court. Driven into exile, Godwine regathered his forces and came back even stronger, only to discover that his second son Harold was destined to surpass him in renown and glory.
Who was Wulfnoth Godwineson?
by Mercedes Rochelle
Most of us lament the fate of Harold Godwineson (or Godwinson), last of the Anglo-Saxon kings killed at the Battle of Hastings. But how many know about his younger brother Wulfnoth? Born about 20 years after his famous sibling, Wulfnoth was whisked away as hostage for his father’s good behavior when he was only about 12 years old. In all the confusion surrounding Godwine’s return from exile in 1052, he was probably kidnapped by the Archbishop Robert of Jumièges, who fled from London with the rest of Edward’s Norman allies. Robert turned over Wulfnoth and cousin Hakon to William, claiming (in one version) that King Edward had declared the Norman Duke as his heir, and sent the boys along as guarantee of his pledge. Presumably the Duke did not investigate the validity of this promise. Why should he suspect the word of an Archbishop?
Harold Swears an Oath to William. Source: Wikimedia
Poor Wulfnoth was in quite a fix. After all, he was the youngest son and hence, expendable. At the time he was abducted, his father was striving to get his position back. Earl Godwine probably didn’t even know his son was missing until after the fact. How culpable was the King? Could Godwine accuse him of betraying his trust? (Wulfnoth was Edward’s hostage, after all.) Not likely. Would Godwine have written to Duke William offering to pay a ransom for his son? Wulfnoth was not likely ever to know, and his father died the next year, which must have seemed like a catastrophe to the lonely youth.
I’ve read some Victorian-era historians who bemoan the innocent prisoner kept under lock and key. But I suspect his confinement was more in the nature of a high-ranking son of a noble, raised in the ducal household to ensure the loyalty of the father. The captive son would be treated like a squire or even a member of the family, provisionally allowed to roam free with the understanding that he would not try to leave. Or at least, I hope this is how Wulfnoth was treated, for he never deserved his fate. I can only suspect the boy was a powerful negotiating tool for the Duke, just in case the opportunity arose. And if King Edward really did offer William the crown, of course he would keep the boy as security. There should have been no reason to put him in a prison cell.
William the Conqueror. Source: Wikimedia
When Harold made his fatal oath to support William’s claim to the throne in 1064, once again Wulfnoth had to stay as surety for his promise; it seems that his fellow hostage Hakon was not as important, and William let him go home. Once Harold took the throne, I wonder if William was tempted to kill his hostage? If the Duke was as nasty as he is made out to be, surely one would have expected him to take his revenge. But he didn’t. In fact, Wulfnoth was the Duke’s hostage until the day William died; on his death bed, a repentant William the Conqueror released all his hostages.
Alas, Wulfnoth’s freedom was short-lived. William Rufus is said to have rushed to England to claim his patrimony, taking Wulfnoth with him. Having a Godwineson on the loose was too risky for the Norman heir; the last thing Rufus needed was a new rebellion with a puppet figurehead. Of course by then, Wulfnoth had been a captive so many years he had no friends in England, no property, nor any family left; they had all fled the country and his sister Queen Editha had died in 1075. So he wasn’t much of a threat, and the new king was content to confine Wulfnoth to Winchester, where he may have become a monk at the cloister. He died in the year 1094.
It’s interesting to me that the least dramatic and least talked-about Son of Godwine is the only one to have survived the events of 1066. In my world of historical fiction, this gave him the opportunity to compile the remembrances of his brothers and finish the chronicle begun by his sister Editha. In her words: I preserved my real story, and intend to pass it on to my last surviving brother Wulfnoth, who can prepare it for a future chronicler not hostile to our house. Who is that chronicler? Myself, of course! You can read all about it in FATAL RIVALRY.
This series is available on Kindle Unlimited
Universal Link: https://books2read.com/u/38VrJZ
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0BRQMHYWB
Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BRQMHYWB
Amazon CA: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B0BRQMHYWB
Amazon AU: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B0BRQMHYWB
Mercedes Rochelle is an ardent lover of medieval history, and has channeled this interest into fiction writing. She believes that good Historical Fiction, or Faction as it’s coming to be known, is an excellent way to introduce the subject to curious readers. She also writes a blog: HistoricalBritainBlog.com to explore the history behind the story.
Born in St. Louis, MO, she received by BA in Literature at the Univ. of Missouri St.Louis in 1979 then moved to New York in 1982 while in her mid-20s to “see the world”. The search hasn’t ended!
Today she lives in Sergeantsville, NJ with her husband in a log home they had built themselves.
Social Media Links:
Book Bub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/mercedes-rochelle
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/stores/Mercedes-Rochelle/author/B001KMG5P6
Thank you so much for hosting Mercedes Rochelle today.
The Coffee Pot Book Club
LikeLiked by 1 person
My pleasure, Cathie!
Thanks so much for hosting me!
LikeLiked by 1 person
You are welcome!